Autumn is in full swing; Canadian Thanksgiving has come and gone and Halloween is quickly approaching. These holidays always make me hungry for pumpkin pie, and I have to shamefully admit, the faker the better. None of that real, just-scooped-out-of-the-pumpkin kind of pie for me. Nothing compares to one of those packaged, store-bought pies that are on sale dirt-cheap this time of year. With real, heart-clogging whipped cream, of course. Yum!
I did just buy a real pumpkin though which I will carve and light a candle in, and save the seeds for a yummy roasted snack. In previous years, I've grown my own pumpkins and had a small patch of these lovely orange orbs. Since the seeds I planted in my garden this year declined to grow, I decided to make my own little pumpkin patch, using this tutorial from Crafster.org. I found another in the Martha Stewart daily craft email as well; you can find the tutorial HERE. They were quick and easy to make and look really cute in a little bunch. Enjoy!
Yesterday marked this year's autumn solstice, and the day before that we finished combining, making it one full month of harvest for us.
I've been enjoying the return of Light Jacket Season, as my sister calls it, though this week we are back to 30C+ temperatures. I really love autumn -the smells and colours, the end of a long summer of hard work, the promise of walks in the fresh air and cozy evenings in the house. Now that Julie is a bit older and beginning to understand things, I've been trying to create meaningful experiences for her. One book I read, Heaven on Earth by Sharifa Oppenheimer, suggests celebrating seasonal festivals, allowing children to see how they are connected to something bigger than themselves, something continuous and meaningful. So, with this solstice, we've started a little celebration for the changing seasons.
Using a basic grapevine wreath as our starting point, Julie and I created a seasonal centrepiece for our kitchen table. We went on a walk around our yard and collected things that would look nice around a lit candle: rose hips, yellow poplar leaves, and dried sunflowers. We did a short dance outside (mainly because Julie likes to spin in circles) to welcome the new season, and decorated the house with an autumn wreath. For supper that night, we used a cloth tablecloth, and lit the candle in the middle of our centrepiece. It was a simple celebration, but a lot of fun, and definitely handmade.
Like I mentioned in my last post, I've been absent from New Leaf the past while, but not at all from the making scene. Having the cutest daughter in the world makes me want to give her everything I possible can, and I figure if I make it, it doesn't really count as spoiling her, right?
One of Julie's current interests includes having little people (an odd assortment of creatures from In The Night Garden, Duplo, Smurfs...) to put to bed, feed, make each other kiss, etc. One evening, by the light of the TV, I used some fabric and two-by-four scraps to create a few pieces of furniture to inspire her play. I didn't do any sewing at all (oh! except for the little pillow which I stitched to the bed by hand), which is sometimes a nice switch. The staple gun did all the work I needed -I folded fabric around corners (stuffed a little poly-fil in the bed for a mattress) and stapled it all in place, then attached felt to the bottoms to cover up the fabric edges. I think it took me about an hour from start to finish and the furniture is one of her favourite things these days.
Here are some felt creations I made. The doll (Lola) is from my own brains, just felt pieces cut out, stuffed with poly-fill, and sewed up with the machine. The frog I made from The Cuter Book by Aranzi Aronzo -a gift from my sister. The book is full of (you guessed it) cute little toys to hand sew with felt: chains of monkeys, the alphabet with eyes, stacking turtles, flowered snakes...and ideas of what to do with them (attach them to bags, cards, etc).
The colourful fish shown below, I also made with inspiration from a book: Creative Play for your Toddler. I haven't quite finished the project yet -there are little magnets sewn into the nose of each fish and I need to find a strong magnet to add to the end of a little fishing pole so Julie can go fishing with these little beauties. I really enjoyed this book. I made a felt ball from here a while ago, and more recently, the ribbon wands, the red felt crown and the cape (though I really adapted these last two quite a bit) (modelled below by a giant giraffe). Not only does it give lots of theory and insight into toddler play, it has pages and pages of step-by-step instructions for making imaginative and play-inspiring toys yourself.
Here's the little beauty herself! I hang a lot of laundry outside in the summer -nothing beats that smell of wind and sunshine in your clothes and sheets. A few years ago, my grandma gave me her old clothespin apron; basically it's a pocket that ties around your waist, making it easy to grab clothespins while you are busily hanging clothes. I bought (yet another!) project book last summer -One Yard Wonders. Flipping through it again recently, I noticed a pattern for a clothespin apron. Since Julie loves doing whatever Mommy or Daddy do lately, I knew she'd enjoy having her own version of what I have. I modified the pattern a bit to fit Julie's skinny waist -I love the colourful fabric scraps I used! My own plain canvas apron is truly dowdy in comparison.
Julie loves stealing clothespins from my apron to stuff into her own pocket so she can hand them to me as needed.
That about covers the experiments I've been creating, though I'd like to make her a few more things yet. A doll, maybe, and a sling to carry it around. Oven mitts to wear while she "helps" me cook. And this playtent from 2 little hooligans:
Hopefully some of these projects inspire you to create something for your toddler! I know Julie loves having things that I've spent time making for her ("Mommy made it!").
I got a note from a fellow maker the other day, sharing about a project he and his wife are working on and the whole idea really struck me as interesting and innovative, and thought I'd share!
Harlan and his wife originally created their weebee blocks for their own son; after seeing how much he liked them and how they were awesome for his learning, they made them for other kids, who also loved them.
I love the simple and attractive designs on these blocks -I know my own daughter would love them and would easily recognize the common pictures.
What I love most about this project is that they are being funded by Kickstarter. According to their website, Kickstarter is " the largest funding platform for creative projects in the world." Regular people like you and me, who have a love of the handmade and want to support the creative process, can pledge money to all sorts of projects: music, film, art, technology, design, food, publishing and more. I love how the project creators keep total control over their work, but also how they can only go ahead if they reach their funding goals. It seems like an awesome way for people without a lot of cash but with great ideas to have a chance to share their creations with the world.
Have a look at Harlan's project, and if you like what you see, you can pledge some money towards the project and helping him and his wife start this exciting new project.
Take a look at the project here.
Once long ago, my young cousin dubbed a family (erroneously, I'm sure) 'The Scaries'. Think ill-fitting sweatpants and t-shirts with lots of stains on them and poorly, if at all, combed hair.
The other day, Maria was talking about making some yoga pants. Well, being at the point (for quite some time to be honest) of supreme discomfort, very hot, and bigger than I EVER was with Ava so that many of my 'comfortable' clothes are not quite so comfortable ('specially since they weren't supposed to dry and I did it anyways to help them fit a little bit better - why DID I buy them so big?) - I decided to try making a pair of my own. I can't tell you why, but sitting at my sewing machine for more than 5 minutes causes my back to ache in a way that I can't even describe but, for the sake of comfort, I forged ahead. I was pumped to recall the surplus of jersey fabric left over from a wrap top I made and went ahead and cut my pieces. Of course, the pants took slightly longer than 5 minutes to finish. I had GRAND ideas of what these pants would be like - and, after finishing the hems up, I rushed to try them on.
Let me just say, YIKES! sometimes things work, and sometimes they DON'T. Guess which this was? Yep, with my poorly combed hair and these horrendously (yet supremely comfortable feeling) fitting pants...I wouldn't hold it against anyone who called me a 'Scary'. You won't find me wearing the pants anytime soon, I was left with some poorly constructed pants and a backache that wouldn't subside. Sigh, live and learn, right?
Though it feels like I've lived on my yard for a long time, it's really only been just over 3 years. We bought a dirt-cheap, falling-apart old house and got it moved onto our yard of rolling hills and pasture in 2007. Thankfully (for me, since I have NO experience or knowledge about house renovations), my husband is quite the handy sort and has turned our once decrepit house into a cozy and lovely home. Below is our house, before and now (take a guess which is which):
We lived in the basement for about six months while Charles worked on the upstairs. The main floor was pretty much all finished when we moved up in the spring of 2008, but there is still a lot to do (including the entire basement) and we've have been slowly working away at the place. Over the past few weeks (in between colds and the flu and other issues), Charles has been giving the porch a major do-over: gip-rock instead of wood panelling, new flooring, and my FAVOURITE part -custom built boot shelves and coat hooks! The small rickety wooden shelf that housed about 3 sets of shoes had me dreaming of massive amounts of shelves for baskets and shoes and boots... Charles designed the spaces, built them and installed them all to my utter and complete joy. I still want to add a big mirror over the small dresser in the corner, and make padded seats for the benches, but that'll take a bit of time yet. As it is right now though is fantastic -I'm really excited to not have a big messy tub of shoes in my closet anymore.
Throughout school and university, and into my work life as a teacher, I always dreaded deadlines, stressing about getting assignments and lessons completed long before the due date, yet putting things off until the last minute despite the stress that ensued. I would have thought that working for myself would rid the need for deadlines. Over the past year I haven't really bothered with them much, except for occasionally rushing to get some things completed for a big trade show or completing a custom order. However, last month I noticed that there were stacks and stacks of notebooks in various stages of assembly, all strewn across my workspace. After working here and there on these notebooks, I finally decided to set myself a due date for which to complete the half-notebooks that were cluttering my space. I gave myself a week to accomplish this, and found that instead of being sidetracked by Facebook, or thinking up some new idea of something I'd like to create, I would actually work on the notebooks whenever I had a chance, knowing that I had a clear time limit. By Friday, I had completed all I had set out to do and was able to tidy up my workspace and think of which project I wanted to start next. I've given myself a new project for this week, with another Friday deadline. After learning how to make awesome envelopes, I've sort gone overboard and made hundreds. Inspired by the designs, I've been creating matching notecards and putting them into sets with mailing stickers and a self-designed wrap-around label. Friday will hopefully arrive with neat stacks of packaged envelope/notecard/label sets... Now to get off the computer and get to WORK!
Ever have one of those days when you just seem to get NOthing done? I seem to have those quite often, what with a busy toddler needing me ALL the time, and a body that, despite not being quite half way there, is feeling quite pregnant - and therefore, QUITE exhausted. Today was NOT one of those days. YIPEE!!
It is only 7 PM and, for once, I'm not feeling bad about calling it a night. In spite of the fact that I was at Maria's all morning til around 2, I still managed to get things done. Can I brag? Just a little bit? Please? :)
I got a pillow cover embroidered that I've been meaning to do since LAST Christmas when Ava got the book, Guess How Much I Love You, a loaf of bread baked (okay, yes, it WAS in the bread machine but there are days when I don't even have a chance to put the ingredients in the machine, let alone bake a loaf of bread), a chance to use a handheld blender that I've had for at least 3 years and never actually used, some homemade fruit-filled cereal bars baked, supper made and on the table before 6, and finally, my wee babe to bed. Yay, me! Oh, I'm also NOT forgetting to blog this week! I'm seriously on a roll. Now all I need is a bath, my book, and my bed...this handmaiden is calling it a day on a positive note!
It seems appropriate that I've been procrastinating this blog post, considering it's about getting organized. It's a new year for New Leaf, and I have great goals of how organized I'll be this year, while more than likely, things will remain as ever. Putting things off till the last minute, my mess of a workspace overflowing until I have to do something about it in order to see the actual desk... Though you wouldn't know it by looking at the mounds of clutter surrounding my work area, I really do love being organized. I've been finding some great tools for staying organized, both in record keeping and in physical office space, so I thought I'd share a few of these gems.
I love baskets -it's so easy to toss stuff into them, but if you have lots, there's still some organization, and they hide things so well. These are from sewingmomma on Etsy. I love the neutral linen fabric with the flowers to spruce them up.
What kind of a shop owner would I be if I didn't plug my own goods? Really though, I have one of these memo boards above my desk. Not only does it look lovely, it helps keep stray bits of paper organized. Where to find yours? At newleafhandmade on Etsy, of course.
Again, I love places to stash things. I also like the idea of them stuck to the wall, unable to disappear. You can find these and ones in other styles from Thitaree on Etsy.
Etsy shops, from left to right: Magnets from fridgeFancies, Twig Pencils from brionesandco, Button Thumbtacks from ButtonUpsDesigns.
And if I had space for some bigger things:
Etsy shops from left to right: Green Shelf from TRwoodworks, Metal Drawers from TagSaleFinds, White Shelf from usacreations, Ribbon Caddy from pattyspaperprojects.
And for any other small business owners who love great record-keeping tools:
I've always loved to make things, but it wasn't until Cecelia and I started our business that I've had a real outlet for this passion. Really, there are only so many pillow covers and notebooks I can use in my own house. And instead of my interest waning over time, it seems to be fueled by the act of creating, making me want to try new things all the time (which is one of the reasons we have so many different things going on in our shop -there's too many fun things to try our hands at!). A few weeks ago I discovered a pattern for a toddler jacket (along with matching bellbottom overalls) at the Salvation Army.
I immediately had to try making it, envisioning how insanesly cute my daughter would look in this vintage style jacket. I am so impressed with how it turned out; I think this is probably the most detailed thing I've ever made (it even has a lining). Observe:
Maria & Cecelia
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